STEM Design Challenge: Edible Cars
Lesson Objective: Use engineering design process to construct edible cars
Grades 6-8 / Science / Engineering

Thought starters

  1. How does Ms. Manning give students both freedom and structure?
  2. What elements make this project a strong assessment?
  3. Notice how Ms. Manning focuses on skills rather than content. Why does she do this?
  4. What effect does this have?
20 Comments
LOL! My students would eaten that project before it was done!
Recommended (2)
I couldn't stop smiling. This lesson would be a blast! The only question is, how can I convince my building's science teachers that it is worth it?
Recommended (2)
Amazing! I can't wait to try this activity - thanks for the great (and complete) lesson plans.
Recommended (3)
Joanne Salustri This is a great idea. I am looking for ways as a middle school science to get my 7th graders engaged with collaboration using the concepts they have learned in the classroom. It is applying what they know into creating and solving problems.
Recommended (2)
Such inspiration from the engagement of students applying critical skills. The thoroughness of the supporting materials will provide an opportunity for me to adapt for younger students in fourth grade.
Recommended (2)

Transcripts

  • STEM LESSON IDEAS
    EDIBLE CAR CONTEST

    VO
    00:01:31 This teaching moment is made possible by Chase.
    00:01:38 [Stem Lesson Ideas]
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL

    STEM LESSON IDEAS
    EDIBLE CAR CONTEST

    VO
    00:01:31 This teaching moment is made possible by Chase.
    00:01:38 [Stem Lesson Ideas]
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:01:44 Okay, we need eight rice cakes.
    BOY [sync]
    00:01:45 Build the next batch and I’ll figure out how to fix this.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:01:48 What did you do to make your wheels work better?
    BETH MANNING
    00:01:50 My name is Beth Manning. I’m a seventh grade science teacher in a STEM program at Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, Connecticut. The end of the year project is an edible car contest. The students work in teams and they build an edible car.

    00:02:06 They can use toothpicks or skewers to kind of stick things together, but other than that, it has to be completely edible. The project was designed to kind of assess the kids on some of the STEM skills that they learn throughout the year – skills such as working in collaborative groups, being able to research, being able to ask questions, problem solving, using the engineering design process that we used with some other projects we did this year.

    00:02:35 They designed and prepared for four days and then today, the day of building, they had an hour and a half this morning to build and then we race this afternoon.
    PARENT [sync]
    00:02:45 One, two, three, go.
    00:02:48 [The Edible Car Contest]
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:02:54 Hey guys, listen up. We’re here to build your- your edible cars for the racing contest this afternoon. I need you to take out the rules for the edible car contest, your procedure and your supply list.
    BETH MANNING
    00:03:09 The edible car contest is a great end of the year project because it kind of puts together some of those 21st century skills in action - for example, the blueprint with the math and measuring and making something to scale. For science, just the inquiry skills of questioning, writing procedures, following a procedure, you know, thinking things through. If it doesn’t work, what else- you know, what else do I need to do?

    00:03:35 They really have to figure it out by themselves. They aren’t given any guidance. They’re given the regulations and the rules of the project. And then they work on this team to figure out and solve that problem.
    FALCO TEAM BOY
    00:03:49 This is the original idea- or our car that we drew on the blueprint.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL
    00:03:54 We wanted our car to look like- kind of like a lizard. So, what we decided to do was have, like, cucumber body.
    LIGHTNING BOLT TEAM GIRL
    00:04:00 And we have our axles of candy sticks. And then we have Keebler cookies with frosting in the middle to connect the two to make a stronger wheel.
    FALCO TEAM BOY
    00:04:10 Under these Twizzlers, there are Snickers bars, so to make it heavier, so it’d go down the ramp faster. And then over it to make it look cool, we were going to put Twizzlers. Yeah. But that didn’t really work out.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:04:23 Are you good to go?
    STUDENTS [sync]
    Yeah.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:04:26 Alright. We’ll call you up to get your stuff, okay? Alright.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:04:30 We have the fruit roll-ups and-
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL 2 [sync]
    I’ll get the rice cakes.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:04:34 Okay. We need to get eight rice cakes.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL 2 [sync]
    Eight, oh.
    BETH MANNING
    00:04:38 We shopped based on their lists so that they would take mostly what was on their list. I bought some extra stuff because I said we would have this because I knew some of them were going to have to change their plan during build.
    WOMAN [sync]
    00:04:50 Rice Krispy treats. How many do you need?
    GIRL [sync]
    Six.
    BETH MANNING
    00:04:52 We bought hot-dog rolls. We bought Twinkies, vegetables, peppers, cucumbers, bananas. We bought Oreos, Keebler striped cookies because they had a hole in the middle. We had candy sticks. We had pretzel rods. We have pretzel sticks. And then we bought stuff so they could stick things together.

    00:05:12 They- We had frosting. We had fruit roll-ups. And marshmallows.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:05:17 Two marshmallows for the eyes.
    BETH MANNING
    00:05:18 I labeled them body, wheels and axles. And I was a little reluctant to do that because I kind of wanted them to even be more open-minded that maybe what I thought would be a good axle or a wheel, they would think of it as something else.
    WOMAN [sync]
    00:05:32 Fourteen?
    FALCO TEAM BOYS [sync]
    Yeah.
    WOMAN [sync]
    You’re not eating that are you?
    BOYS [sync]
    No, no, no.
    BETH MANNING
    00:05:36 I was not worried about my students working with food because they know the rule in science is we don’t eat. And that to look at these items, even though they are food items, we’re just looking at them as construction items. I think as a teacher, too, you need to know any health issues with your kids.

    00:05:52 Like, you know, for allergies and that kind of stuff. So, as long as you know that, it’s- it’s fine.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:05:58 So guys, which one do you think we should use for the body and which one for the head? Well, this one’s bigger and this one’s longer, so…
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL 2 [sync]
    00:06:05 Use the chubbier one.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    Yeah.
    BETH MANNING
    00:06:07 They didn’t have a lot of background knowledge in the content that went into this project. In seventh grade science we do biology, mostly. So, they don’t have a lot of background on motion or cars or how wheels work. They had simple machines and motion in sixth grade, but not a lot. So, we were trying to look at the skills they used to make this car, rather than the content.
    BOY [sync]
    00:06:31 We’ll keep those and then we’ll make another two wheels. Well, we have to make four wheels of each kind. So, we’ll make four of each- Or, no, you know what we’ll do? We’ll just make one of these wheels and see which one hardens better.
    BETH MANNING
    00:06:42 The skills we were kind of looking for as- as teachers was to see, you know, were they able to make choices of people that they feel they work well with.
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:06:51 Don’t touch the middle. Don’t touch the middle.
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL 2 [sync]
    What about the end, too?
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL 3 [sync]
    Alright, that’s fine. That’s fine.
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL [sync]
    Alright. Turn it around. That works. That’s much better.
    BETH MANNING
    00:07:07 A lot of times when you do classroom stuff, they have a lot of extra conversations going on. And I noticed almost none of that was happening – that all their conversations were about what they were doing. They asked each other a lot of questions.

    00:07:18 So, you can really- I could hear and see their whole, like, thought process going on.
    BOY [sync]
    00:07:24 The wheels are bigger than the axle, so it’s not going to get stuck.
    BOY 2 [sync]
    But then how are we- how are the wheels not going to fly off the edge?
    BOY [sync]
    Exactly. That’s what we need to figure out. So, I was thinking just like what went into the axle and-
    BOY 2 [sync]
    00:07:37 No. But then it's going to stick to the floor. I have an idea.
    BETH MANNING
    00:07:42 We had set up in the cafeteria for them and their building process. We had the ramp that they were going to actually race their car down. So that they could test their car to see if it was going to work.
    BOY [sync]
    00:07:53 What is this? Pick it up. We’ll just get another S’more.
    BETH MANNING
    00:07:55 A large part of the process is I’ve made this car, let me see what it does and then, you know, if it doesn’t do what I think it’s going to do, let’s go back and try to fix it while- while we had the time to do it.

    00:08:07 And I think almost every group did that.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:08:10 Alright, ready?
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:08:15 What’s the problem with it?
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:08:16 The wheels are kind of popping off.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    Okay, well why do you think the wheels are popping off?
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:08:21 Because the frame is not held on very well.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    Okay, you get- you have a lot of weight, okay. And then I understand you want it to look like a lizard. Okay. But maybe we might have to sacrifice a little bit of the design for functionality. Engineers do that all the time, okay?
    BETH MANNING
    00:08:37 My role during the build was just as a facilitator. Just kind of listening in and if they were having some difficulty, not to supply them with the answers, but to ask questions to try to help them figure it out – what they were going to do.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL
    00:08:52 First, we tried the rice cakes, but they kept breaking and our cucumber wasn’t big enough to hold them. So, we had to make the wheels smaller and then the cucumber broke a little bit. So, there- we had to do many different repairs.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:09:07 You put your designs on, right? Did you test this? Do you think those- this decoration’s going to have any impact on how it works?
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL [sync]
    00:09:15 Yeah, because it’s going to be more weight on it, so-
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:09:18 It’s going to be more weight. Okay. So, do you have all your decorations on there?
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRLS
    Yeah.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:09:21 You do. So, what do you think you should do?
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL [sync]
    Let it dry and then test it.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    Yeah, you’re going to let it dry and then you’re going to test it again? Okay. Good.
    BOY [sync]
    00:09:29 Watch the wheels. They’re slowing down.
    BETH MANNING
    00:09:31 I think the key to this project is they’re engaged and they think it’s really cool. And they also want to be successful in front of their peers. So, you know, what can I do to be successful?
    BOY [sync]
    00:09:39 I think that works.
    BOY 2 [sync]
    That’ll work alright.
    BETH MANNING
    00:09:43 And they really rise to the challenge.
    FALCO TEAM BOY [sync]
    00:09:45 Let it go! Yes!
    FALCO TEAM BOY 2 [sync]
    Alright!
    FALCO TEAM BOY
    00:09:48 Ben came up with the idea to put a cucumber in the middle because it was sturdy and it wouldn’t break if we stuck something through it. Joe came up with the idea to put pretzels through it instead of the candy sticks because the candy sticks broke once you ran them under hot water.
    FALCO TEAM BOY 2
    00:10:01 We put a marshmallow so the wheel wouldn’t wobble because that was mainly our problem. It would wobble and cause the car to go off. So, we fixed that and we tried it again and it was successful. It was moving at a really good speed. And I don’t think a lot of cars are going to catch it.
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL
    00:10:18 We predicted that the car was actually going to go good because when we were testing it, it actually rolled pretty good.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL
    00:10:27 I honestly think we might get best overall. Our car is fast. It goes a nice distance and I think it looks really nice. It’s creative. I mean, it’s a lizard.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:10:50 Make sure you sit with your groups.

    00:10:54 Alright. So, it’s race day and your cars are in my room. So, when we call a team up, okay, we’re just going to try to do you in order. You’re going to go in my room, get your car and then come back to race.
    BETH MANNING
    00:11:11 So the students took their car. They put it behind the starting tape and then the parent volunteer took the barbeque spatula and just kind of held it, you know, put it in front of it so the car couldn’t go anywhere. And then the other parent volunteer hit the stopwatch and said, “One, two, three, go.” She lifted the spatula up and the car came down.

    00:11:33 We had tape marking the starting line and the finish line because the requirement was in order to qualify for the speed contest, you had to go down the [unintell]
    PARENT [sync]
    00:11:48 One, two, three, go.
    BETH MANNING
    00:11:50 And then we also had a contest for how far it went.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:11:56 Yeah. About 48.
    BETH MANNING
    00:11:58 They really rose to the occasion. I thought when they raced they were very supportive of each other – even of the cars that didn’t work. And they kind of cheered each other on and they were, like, really kind of rooting for everybody to have a car go down the ramp. So, that was really good.

    00:12:18 Some of them made it, some of them didn’t, some of them didn’t go anywhere. So, they weren’t allowed to push it or bang on the ramp or anything. It had to go of its own power.
    PARENT [sync]
    00:12:26 One, two, three, go.
    BETH MANNING
    00:12:31 A lot of the students, their cars were too heavy. And I think that was their big stumbling blocks. And the proportion of the- the body to the wheels [unintell]
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:12:41 Hey, guys.
    BOY [sync]
    00:12:45 Wait.
    BETH MANNING
    00:12:48 That- I think that I didn’t even think of that they kind of noticed as it happened. For example, if you take a pretzel rod and you stick it through a cucumber-
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:12:56 What happened to your- what happened?
    FALCO TEAM BOY [sync]
    It got soggy.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    It got soggy in the middle. Because why? What’s inside a cucumber?
    FALCO TEAM BOY [sync]
    00:13:03 Cucumber juice.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    Yep. Alright, give it a shot.
    BETH MANNING
    00:13:08 Maybe if we kind of knew that ahead of time and planned for that, that if- they could have maybe pulled their wheel assembly apart from their car and just stuck it in right before they raced.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:13:19 Pick up your parts, guys.
    BETH MANNING
    00:13:20 But, I thought they did a great job. I mean, most of them got the idea and- and just to see, you know, 75 kids completely engaged for two hours these days is cool.
    FALCO TEAM BOY
    00:13:34 I liked how they just set the rules and let us go off and they didn’t tell us what we couldn’t do or nothing was wrong. The sky was the limit.
    BETH MANNING
    00:13:42 Next year, I already talked to the sixth grade, we’re hoping to possibly expand it to all of STEM – so if the sixth, seventh and eighth grade did it. So, if you did it in sixth grade, you’d get another chance to do it in seventh grade and another chance to do it in eighth grade.

    00:13:56 Which they could then think about it through their whole year and they have that much more math and science and everything else behind them to be, you know, to make it better.
    PARENT [sync]
    00:14:05 Three, two, one, go.
    LIZARD TEAM GIRLS [sync]
    Go! Go!
    LIZARD TEAM GIRL
    00:14:14 The freedom that it gave us. I thought it was really cool, the way we could express our ideas and also make a car out of food. Just pretty cool.
    PARENT [sync]
    00:14:21 -three, go.
    BETH MANNING
    00:14:23 As a teacher, it is kind of scary to give up that control, but kids are naturally inquisitive. They’re natural problem solvers. And sometimes when they’re always told what to do, they forget how to do that. So, you do have to be able to live with a little bit of planned chaos, but when you give that up you get this reward that these kids are amazing.
    BETH MANNING [sync]
    00:14:46 Awesome. Awesome job.
    LIGHTNING TEAM GIRL
    00:14:50 My favorite part was probably watching our car go down because I was- I was a little worried because on the last test, it, like, sort of stopped. But that was, like, the moment of truth right there. So, that was my favorite part and knowing that we did a really good job and that everything paid off.
    FALCO TEAM BOY
    00:15:11 It was a lot of fun, this whole thing, even in the cafeteria when it was really stressful trying to put it together, but it was a lot of fun otherwise. It was just fun.
    VO
    00:15:29 This teaching moment is made possible by Chase.
    ***SEGMENT END***

School Details

Rogers Park Middle School
21 Memorial Dr
Danbury CT 06810
Population: 932

Data Provided By:

greatschools

Teachers

Beth Manning

Newest

Teaching Practice

All Grades, All Subjects, Class Culture

TCH Special

All Grades / Science / Tch DIY

TCH Special

All Grades / Science / Tch DIY

TCH Special

All Grades / Science / Tch DIY